GENEVA, N.Y. — It’s been something of an annual rite, so why change anything now?
Bowdoin, a perennial power in NCAA Division III field hockey, reached the third round of the NCAA tournament with a convincing 3-1 win Saturday over MIT at William Smith College.
The Polar Bears (15-3) will face New England Small College Athletic Conference rival Tufts at 1 p.m. Sunday, with the winner earning a return trip to Geneva for the national semifinals next weekend. The teams split their two previous meetings this year.
“We need to continue to step up in front of the ball,” said senior forward Cathleen Smith, who netted Bowdoin’s first goal against MIT (17-3). “When we played (Tufts) the first time, we weren’t able to step in front of them and (we) let them dribble around us. Our goal is to not even let them get the ball.”
That’s precisely the plan the Polar Bears executed to near-perfection against MIT, whom they outshot 26-4 and out-cornered, 21-2.
“We really brought our game to them right from the very start,” said senior defender Kassey Matoin of Sanford. “We were all in a good state of mind. We were all really focused.”
The Polar Bears held a massive territorial advantage in the first half and were rewarded with a two-goal lead.
Smith and Brooke Phinney scored off penalty corners, and Colleen Finnerty also found the net.
Smith’s goal came at 11:55, when she lurked in front of the net and deflected Phinney’s drive from the top of the arc.
“She slammed a perfect hard ball right on the ground,” said Smith, a senior from Larchmont, N.Y. “I was able to get a touch on it. I work hard on deflections all year. I have an idea where the goalie is behind me and I try to get it past her.”
The Engineers answered at 17:53 when Molly Duffy scored in transition.
Bowdoin had a chance to go ahead at 24:13 when Matoin was awarded a penalty stroke, but she lifted her attempt off the crossbar.
However, Phinney put the Polar Bears back in the lead at 29:32 with another drive from the edge of the circle, cashing in Katie Riley’s corner feed.
“We try to capitalize on those opportunities,” said Bowdoin Coach Nicky Pearson, whose team is 16-1 in NCAA tournament games since 2007. “We had plenty today. It’s a huge advantage to execute that and have somebody (such as Phinney) put a hard ball on goal, whether we score off a direct shot or somebody gets a touch and redirects it.”
Finnerty scored with 1:03 remaining on a clean 20-footer.
Bowdoin kept up heavy pressure throughout the second half and kept the Engineers from making any comeback noises.
“They were dangerous,” said Pearson, “and if they had scored and made it 3-2, with the switch of momentum we would have had our hands full.”